Anthony Lacavera, the 39-year-old photogenic and feisty chief of Wind Mobile, is yet again in the thick of a shakeup in Canada's telecom industry. Lacavera's rise in the Canadian telecom space was fast and furious and he became a vocal champion for average consumers, fighting for more competition in the marketplace.
But the future of Wind remains unclear. Earlier this month, it was reported that Rogers Communications is backing investment firm, Birch Hill Equity Partners Management, on a proposed acquisition of Wind. It is speculated the plan is a way of fending off U.S. telecom giant Verizon Communications, which is said to have also recently offered $700-million for Wind.
Below is an edited and condensed interview with Lacavera.
Wind is now very much linked to both Verizon as well as Rogers via Birch Hill. How do you see this unfolding?
"Unfortunately, I can't really discuss the potential sale of Wind in any kind of detail ... Wind is here to stay. Whether it ends up being owned by a U.S. major or ends up being owned by private equity or ends up being owned by my group."
What do you think of the fact none of the Big Three – Telus, Bell or Rogers – can buy Wind or Mobilicity, but Verizon can. How much do you believe in a free market?
"I absolutely believe in a free market, but we're talking about creating a competitive landscape and if the incumbent players are always permitted to consolidate any upstarts you'll never by definition build out a competitive market ... This idea that the government went and tried to solicit a U.S. major to look at Canada is just astonishing to me. When you look at Vodafone, Orange, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, AT&T and Verizon, if you look at these companies, they have enormous corporate development business development groups within their companies. There's dozens of people in each company that are entirely focused on monitoring policy decisions and upcoming auction frameworks in every country in the world. They absolutely have been looking at Canada."
You've become a celebrity CEO of sorts, but how disappointed are you with how things have played out for you?
"I wouldn't say I'm disappointed ... We've certainly, certainly, made our fair share of mistakes along the way from start-up issues to network quality issues, customer service and billing issues, but I feel like we've done a great job of tackling those one at a time. I feel we have a good product in the market right now."
The Big Three are very visible in their support of local charitable initiatives. Arguably far more so than Verizon would ever be?
"Just as we are the underdog in our industry in telecommunications, we help underdog charities, smaller charities that would not necessarily have the funding, infrastructure support ... Regardless of the ownership, if I'm still involved in the company it will certainly be continuing to build out our community engagement ...I can't speak to what Verizon's plan would be for community engagement."
Apple was fairly ahead of the curve in realizing that actually talking on phones is among the least intriguing services you can offer. What's your take on that and what's the trend going forward?
"Mobile computing is the future ... Whether you're talking about voice, you're talking about social, whether you're talking utility apps, you're talking about mobile banking, any of those cases you're talking about mobile computing and I think there's an acceleration towards those and that is evidenced by things like mobile Twitter and mobile Facebook ... I'm talking to you now on a Samsung S4 and I just think it's a beyond a brilliant device. Apple did have a stranglehold on it for a while, but many manufacturers are producing devices that are truly amazing and you can take your whole world into a mobile computing world instead of needing a desktop."
You've mentioned before flying helps you de-stress. How stressed are you these days and are you flying a lot more?
"That's funny. About the same amount of flying. Frankly, I love this fight. I'm committed to this fight and it's not stressful. It's a great challenge. I have the utmost respect for the financial strength, frankly, the pure market power and dominance of Bell, Telus, Rogers. I have a lot of respect for it, but someone has to shake it up because they've been operating as a cozy oligopoly in wireless for 30 years now.
As the battle in the telecom space rages, where do you see yourself fitting in?
"The company needs a lot more financing and a lot more resources in general to really go head-to-head with the Big Three ... Short version is I'd love to continue to be involved."